Kuwait may soon undertake new steps to change its population ratio, which is comprised mostly of migrant workers. Currently, Kuwaitis make up just over 30% of the country’s current population. The new law would force migrant workers to leave the country if fired by their employers. Supporters of the proposal claim that unemployed expatriate workers put unnecessary strain on public services.
Last year, a new law went into effect in Kuwait that gives some protections for domestic workers. The law allows workers three months to try to find a new job before they have to leave the country. However, there is no specific enforcement mechanism mentioned for implementation of these rules, and domestic workers are still prohibited from joining unions. Thus, while this law was an important step forward for migrant workers’ rights, it still needs to be greatly improved in order to make an impact. Such an impact would be particularly beneficial for domestic workers, who are previously excluded from any protective legislation.
Though Kuwait shows some hopeful signs of progress concerning migrant workers’ rights, it remains to be seen whether this new proposal will pass. Such a law would add considerable challenges to the lives of migrant workers. If fired, laborers would have no chance to seek other work and be at risk of deportation. Further, the new proposal creates more of a disadvantage for migrant workers in abusive work situations. The Government of Kuwait will have to balance differing priorities to decide whether it wants to continue being one of the more progressive countries of the region.
Margaret Bailey is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB.